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Posts from the ‘Holidays’ Category

What are you doing for others?

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?'”

Today is the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Some of us will go to work as usual and others will enjoy a three day weekend and the majority of us will remember Martin Luther King, Jr. as someone who shaped our nation and inspired us to be better people. I know that he was not perfect but that’s okay. What he stood for and taught was perfect. According to the internet, even Mother Teresa and Gandhi had flaws.

As healthcare workers, we can answer the question posed by King on a daily basis. What are we doing for others? We take care of sick people; elderly people; the most vulnerable individuals in society. We have noble professions. We save lives and help people die peacefully in their home surrounded by family and friends when the time comes. We are compassionate. The support staff that ensure that nurses continue to have the ability to take care of patients are equally as important. We have answers to Dr. King’s question.

But can we do more?

In the spirit of Martin Luther King’s devotion to equality for all, we need to recognize that Healthcare disparities are very real. I am not talking about genetic factors that predispose various races and ethnicities to certain conditions but rather how long it takes someone to receive help and what happens after they are diagnosed.

Black Americans are three times more likely to have a leg amputated related to diabetes than their non-hispanic white counterparts. Areas in the rural south are most vulnerable. I did not need a study to reveal that little secret. The study alluded to the fact that Black Americans are less likely to have their total cholesterol screened and seek treatment later. Another study revealed that they are often checked for diabetic retinopathy later. Still more surprises.

The American Cancer Society reveals that the cancer death rate among African American men is 27% higher compared to non-Hispanic white men. For African American Women, it is 11% higher than non-hispanic white women. This study didn’t allude to any underlying cause but I doubt it has to do with early diagnosis or prompt treatment.

Hispanics have higher rates of cervical, liver, and stomach cancers than non-Hispanic whites.

Non-hispanic whites have a much higher incidence of death from heroin overdoses.

The list goes on as most of you know.

Martin Luther King, Jr. also said, “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

If you are unable to establish equality in healthcare for everyone, start with your patients. For some, that might mean writing a list of screenings to take to their MD so they can be ordered or results reported to the agency. It might mean arranging transportation for Medicaid patients because getting to the doctor is difficult for rural patients. You might include the family in teaching about exercise to improve circulation to the lower extremities and even encourage them to walk together (because you nailed diabetic foot care). Learn some of the ethnic foods eaten by your patients and help your patients determine a healthy way to prepare them. Be creative. Individualize your care plans.

Statistically, your patients don’t amount to a hill of beans and the changes you effect won’t alter the statistics but your patients are not statistics. Leading a patient and their family to the changes that will forever improve the quality of their lives is a small act of greatness.


Today is the last day most of us will work this week because of Thanksgiving.  I looked back over the last couple of years to see if there was any inspiration in prior Thanksgiving posts and there wasn’t a whole lot.  Medicare still seems to be working against us and we are still fighting hard to stay in the game.  We are tough and we will survive.  It’s a given.

It isn’t that I am ungrateful.  I am grateful most days when I wake up and take note of my life.  Compared to about 90 percent of the world, I have everything; a home, a family and a son with a dog I love dearly.  Who could want more?

Maybe you could want more.  Maybe some of your patients could want more.

So this year I choose to not make a big deal about all I have to be grateful for as other people are coping with illness or the loss of a loved one.  Being grateful is good.  Flaunting my good fortune in the face of others who are not so fortunate does not tell a story about me that I like.

At some point between the Turkey and the doors opening for Black Friday, maybe we should all pause and consider how we can give something to those who do not have a warm family and home to celebrate with on Thanksgiving Day.  Maybe we can give someone something to be grateful for if only for a minute.

If you live in an urban area, consider keeping some Karma Bags in your car.  Cheap, easy and versatile, if all home health and hospice nurses making home visits carried a half dozen of these, that would make for a lot of meals.  This is what I do for less than ten bucks.

Hit the Dollar Store and go through extra stuff at your house and on your desk to come up with useful things.  Consider some of the following.

Karma 1

  • Juice
  • Mints
  • Peanutbutter
  • crackers
  • Advil or Tylenol
  • Toothbrushes/toothpaste
  • A printed prayer or poem
  • socks!
  • list of local resources
  • razors
  • soap
  • canned tuna or sausages
  • stamped postcard
  • ink pens

The list is endless and I choose what goes into the bags based upon what is available and priced so I can buy multiples.

Assemble the Karma Bags in whatever handy container you have available.  I have used zip lock bags, sports water bottles (a client had some left over from previous owners with the name of an agency that was no longer in business and burlap bags from the Kraft store that were on sale.  The best part of this kind of giving is that it isn’t limited to the holidays.

karma 2

Not everyone feels their heart reach out to the homeless people.  That’s okay.  Some people are drawn to other causes and there are so many worthy causes.  I personally am useless around sick kids but that doesn’t mean that I don’t care and I am very grateful for those who can provide care and attention to them.

If you have another idea that you think could brighten the day of someone whose day really needs brightening, please share.  And if you do Karma Bags, please send us photos.

If you are someone who will be missing someone or has otherwise been disappointed by life, try Karma Bag therapy. You might find that your day is brightened as well.


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